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Il Barbiere Di Siviglia review at Glyndebourne – ‘shines brightly’

Danielle de Niese and Bjorn Burger in Il Barbiere Di Siviglia at Glyndebourne. Photo: Bill Cooper Danielle de Niese and Bjorn Burger in Il Barbiere Di Siviglia at Glyndebourne. Photo: Bill Cooper
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Rossini’s comedy was a notorious flop on its first night in Rome in 1816, but 200 years on there’s no doubt that the premiere of Annabel Arden’s new Glyndebourne staging is a solid success.

Referencing flamenco costumes, Goya’s women and the mid-20th century fashions of Balenciaga, Joanna Parker’s designs possess an alternately vibrant and subtle coloristic range, redolent of the Mediterranean richness of the Spanish setting.

Arden’s direction maintains the farcical commedia dell’arte absurdity of the original while conveying a clear-sighted narrative, whose political and gender-conscious subtexts she allows to register lightly. Her additional trio of actors may be extraneous and in some guises confusing, but their appearances as removal men are genuinely funny.

All of the principal performances possess quality. US tenor Taylor Stayton bounces around nimbly as Count Almaviva, though his tone is apt to be metallic and his coloratura patchy. An ideal exponent of the comic bass role of Dr Bartolo, Alessandro Corbelli sings and acts with flawless skill and discrimination.

Danielle de Niese misses no opportunities as Rosina, her acting as imaginative and accomplished as her singing. She’s allowed an additional aria Rossini wrote for a later revival of the piece. While it gets in the way dramatically, she performs it very nicely.

Christophoros Stamboglis serves up a grandly voiced, gently humorous Don Basilio, while Janis Kelly makes something of a showstopper out of her cleverly vocalised, wittily acted account of efficient housekeeper Berta’s aria.

The evening’s star, though, is the young German baritone Bjorn Burger, whose bright and brilliant tone is matched by equivalent stage personality to position his Figaro, quite properly, at the epicentre of the whirlwind action.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra is in the pit, offering spruce and vital playing under conductor Enrique Mazzola, who presents every number from the overture to the Act II finale with exemplary character and point.

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Rossini’s 200-year-old comedy shines brightly in Annabel Arden’s new production, with a star turn from Bjorn Burger’s Figaro